Union leader blames government for rail strikes

ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan has accused the government of ‘leading’ the continuing rail strikes.

More walkouts have been scheduled by ASLEF drivers on 12 and 31 May, and also on 3 June, and the RMT is set to stage a strike on 13 May, which will clash with the final of the Eurovision song contest in Liverpool.

Speaking to the Independent, Mr Whelan said he expected industrial action to continue in the months ahead. He continued: ‘These are government-led strikes, government-driven strikes, government-organised strikes. Ever since Mr Harper and Mr Merriman have taken over, I don’t think there’s been anything done in good faith.

‘Quite simply after four years, we want a simple pay rise, but we’re not going to give up every term and condition, everything that takes 140 years to gain, for nothing.

‘If you leave us in our free collective bargaining to deal with our employers, maybe we’d be in a better position. But we are hamstrung by the dead hand of government as we have been for the last two years.’

The Department for Transport said: ‘Since coming into office the secretary of state and the rail minister have positively changed the tone and facilitated negotiations, including meeting Mick Whelan on a number of occasions. It has always been the role of industry to negotiate with unions. Train drivers’ national average wage has increased by 39 per cent since 2011, compared to the national average of 23 per cent, and the very fair pay offer would have seen their already well above average salaries increase from £60,055 to £65,000 by the end of the year.’

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